Shuswap Water Quality Research, Reports, and Information
Here are some helpful resources about water quality in the Shuswap, developed by the Shuswap Watershed Council.
NEW! The SWC has completed its fourth annual report on water quality in the Shuswap watershed.
Water quality reports for the Shuswap watershed were also developed in 2012 and 2013 by the Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process. Find the SLIPP reports.
Nutrients have long been of interest in the Shuswap because of their importance to lake health and productivity, and their ability to trigger an algal bloom. Phosphorus (P), in particular, is a key nutrient in aquatic ecosystems because plants and animals such as algae, invertebrates and fish need P to grow and reproduce. Therefore, it’s essential for supporting a healthy ecosystem – but, excessive amounts of nutrients and algae growth can reduce water clarity, create odours, and reduce the quality of water for drinking and recreation.
Water quality monitoring in the Shuswap has indicated that generally, water quality is good in most locations at most times of year. It has also shown us that the largest loads of nutrients to the lakes are coming from the Shuswap and Salmon Rivers. The Shuswap Watershed Council wanted to understand this better, and gain answers to the following questions:
The SWC worked with researchers at UBC-Okanagan to answer these questions. Two phases of research were carried out, beginning in 2016. Phase I of the research took place from 2016-2019, and it involved the collection and analysis of water samples by the research team from 20 different sites on the Shuswap and Salmon Rivers, and from over 80 additional sites at ditches, seasonal streams, and wells.
This work essentially created nutrient "budgets" for the two rivers, illustrating the changing concentrations of nutrients in the water as the rivers flow through their watersheds and accumulate nutrients off the landscape. Water quality data was compiled and evaluated according to which geographic region of the watershed it was from, as well as which land type it is from. The results of this work show us which areas of the watershed we ought to focus our efforts at mitigating, or decreasing, phosphorus inputs to the Shuswap River and Salmon River in order to protect water quality for the long term.
The research results are summarized in a mini-report from the Shuswap Watershed Council: Understanding Nutrients and Water Quality in the Shuswap River and Salmon River.
Additionally, a portion of the research results are presented in one of the researcher’s Masters Thesis, A multi-method approach for determining a phosphorous budget for the Shuswap and Salmon Rivers in Southern Interior British Columbia, authored by Megan Ludwig, available on the UBC website.
Phase II of the research involved the collection and analysis of a sediment core (a long tube of lake-bottom mud) from Mara Lake. Using a type of science called Paleolimnology, the research team determined the historic nutrient conditions in Mara Lake and illustrated how nutrient-loading to the lake has changed over the past 150 years, since the time of settlement and land use changes in the Shuswap River valley.
Phase II research methods and results are summarized in a new, narrated streaming slide presentation called "Mara Lake Nutrient History Study," prepared by Nicholas Hebda, Ph.D candidate, who is a member of the research team.
Full technical reports from the research team at UBC - Okanagan are also available:
The Shuswap Watershed Council would like to thank Dr. Curtis, Dr. Walker, Megan Ludwig and Nicholas Hebda for their participation in this research.
Much of the water quality data that is collected in the Shuswap watershed – and all across the province – is kept in a provincial government database. The database is called the “Environmental Monitoring System” or EMS. You can access water quality data from it using a web reporting tool.
We know that using a database can be overwhelming and frustrating. We’ve produced a step-by-step user guide to help get you started.
To accompany the user guide, you can also check out these Environmental Monitoring System maps that display the names of monitoring stations across the watershed.
Check out the Water Quality Data User Guide.
In 2017 the SWC initiated a water quality monitoring project in Shuswap Lake to test for the presence of substances called nonylphenols. Nonylphenols are a group of synthetic (man-made) compounds found in many industry and consumer products such as detergents, shampoos, cosmetics, lubricants, plastics, rubbers, paints and more. Nonylphenols can be toxic and persistent in the environment, and harmful to algae, invertebrates and fish. They are not routinely monitored in fresh water by environmental regulators.
Because of the occurrence of nonylphenols in such a variety of household consumer products, it’s quite possible that household wastewater contains small amounts of the substances. That possibility, combined with the awareness of nonylphenols’ potential harmfulness to lakes and rivers (but no current understanding about them in the Shuswap) is what led the SWC to initiate this special monitoring project.
The results are good!
The results of the monitoring project, which ran from spring to fall 2017, were very good. The monitoring involved taking samples at various locations in Shuswap Lake (Salmon Arm Bay), and from the Salmon Arm Wastewater Treatment Plant. Nonylphenols were not detected in any samples taken from the lake; a trace amount of one kind of nonylphenol was detected in the treatment plant effluent samples.
These monitoring results suggest that nonylphenols are entering the lake via treatment plant effluent, but in such minuscule amounts that sophisticated water quality analysis can’t detect or measure their presence in the lake. The Canadian Water Quality Guideline for the Protection of Aquatic Life sets the guideline for nonylphenols in fresh water at 1 microgram per litre, and Shuswap Lake is well within that limit.
The Shuswap Watershed Council thanks the City of Salmon Arm and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for their support and participation in this monitoring project.
For more information, see the SWC’s media release Shuswap Watershed Council’s monitoring project shows good results.